Paris (FR), December 2011 - CHECK.point eLearning had the pleasure to interview Sally-Ann Moore, who has been working as an eLearning specialist in Europe since 1990 and has founded iLearning Forum Paris, the number one eLearning event in France. The next edition will be held 31 January - 01 February 2012.
Which special factors influence the development of the French eLearning market?
Sally-Ann Moore: During the twenty years since I founded iLearning Forum Paris, I have come to notice that the French market has a specific character of its own. Over the years I have researched the key factors and spent time with the French eLearning community - here are my key observations:
- Law: eLearning in France is part of the training market and is governed by the factors that drive training spending. The French have laws to ensure that employees and individuals are entitled to a quota of training every year. Companies with over 49 employees have to spend a percentage of payroll on training and get tax rebates for it. The "Droit Individuel de la Formation" (DIF) introduced some three years ago ensures all employees can get two weeks of training per year and includes online learning solutions.
This has had a strong acceleration effect on eLearning, now growing at fifteen percent CAGR in France. Initially the effect was to drive up spending on administration and tracking systems, but today the impact of the law is clear in the number of catalogues of "off-the-shelf" eLearning packages available and the diversity of subject matter now available in France.
- Culture: Compared to the USA and UK, France was slow to pick up eLearning. Back in 2000 when I launched eLearnexpo, many French training managers were "thinking about thinking about it" - at a time when the Anglo-Saxon world was embracing eLearning full on. With the French tendency to abstraction, I often heard debates about "Can a human learn from a machine?" and many objections, some such as cost and content localization, which were well founded.
The French came to eLearning cautiously and thoughtfully and avoided a lot of the "hype" and consequent disappointments of the 2000-2004 period. Now, seven years later it is the fastest- growing eLearning market in Western Europe, with many successful projects and a total size of between 150 and 200 million euros.
- Criteria: The culture is also an intellectual one, and studies of French eLearners show that the accuracy and verity of content is a far more important to them as satisfaction criteria than interactivity, graphics, presentation, and pedagogical design - this aspect is quite unique.
In the French market, what types of technical and content emphases have emerged in the last few years?
Sally-Ann Moore: Between 2000 and 2010, I observed some key shifts in eLearning purchasing.
- Early high spending on learning-management systems (LMS) has dropped from forty percent of total to twelve percent today, while custom content development has picked up the difference.
- There has been a recent move from custom content to published generic content.
- Early content was essentially IT and language learning. Today, there is great diversity, and there has recently been big growth in vocational training content, health and safety, management, and soft skills.
Is the French eLearning market an "independent entity" or are there clear parallels with developments elsewhere in Europe or in the US?
Sally-Ann Moore: A bit of both! Even France cannot escape globalization and is more aligned now with the USA and UK, such as the trend to follow the USA in adoption rates of mobile learning, rapid eLearning, and social learning. But France remains idiosyncratic as a market for reasons mentioned earlier. Some key points that make a difference especially to suppliers are
- small projects: The average size is 78,000 euros, and there is little use of the RFP process;
- small suppliers: Most of the favored eLearning companies in France have fewer than fifty employees;
- learning integration and one-stop shopping: French eLearning buyers value services and want the supplier to provide a range of competencies so that all the project needs come from one source. The most successful eLearning suppliers do not just sell software or content;
- duration: Projects in France tend to be quite long - typically six months, whereas in the USA it's down to three weeks.
Are the providers in the French eLearning market satisfied with how the market has developed?
Sally-Ann Moore: I think the French suppliers are satisfied as they have made it happen over the last ten years, and sustained growth is here after quite a long ramp-up.
For overseas players it's important to work with local partners and channels - and to localize your offerings. Back in 2000 the events I ran were full of American and British companies trying to get a foothold in the French market. By 2004 many had given up, finding it hard work and with not much "low-hanging fruit".
However by 2010 they were coming back: French multinationals attract them. They now speak English as a corporate language and behave more and more like Anglo-Saxon multinationals, competing in a global market - and are therefore receptive to global suppliers. Since 2009 we have had an increase of twenty percent per annum in American exhibitors - each having created a local subsidiary. They offer highly innovative, cost-effective, well-proven tools and platforms, and so have been winning projects in large French organisations for the past two or three years. I expect this trend to continue.
What do you predict will be the main trends in France in 2012?
Sally-Ann Moore: Generally similar to the rest of Europe with the following innovations being widely adopted
- a rapid shift to delivery on mobile devices, both in the private sector and education -especially primary. This will also drive adoption of content-management systems that work with mobile delivery methods - such as K-Tango from Certpoint.
- strongly increasing spending on rapid eLearning tools - active players in France include Lynx, Momindum and Trivantis - for the conversion of classroom training to online, and for fast, small projects that are part of a blended solution. This includes video capture. French companies and schools are increasingly developing their own content thanks to the ease of tools today, so that subject matter experts can develop courseware themselves.
- continued interest in serious games, including board games, interactive business games, and full-blown 3D simulations. France has been blessed with a number of successful games-development companies active in the eLearning market for several years - Symetrix, Qoveo, KTM-Advance and Daesign, notably - and the quality of their work should encourage more adoption of games in eLearning.
- software as a service - This will become a talking point and is becoming more widely accepted as a concept. I would expect to see increase in this market in 2012, thanks especially to innovators like Cornerstone On Demand.